Importance: Testosterone initiation increased substantially in the United States from 2000 to 2013, especially among men without clear indications. Direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) also increased during this time.
Objective: To investigate associations between televised DTCA and testosterone testing and initiation in the United States.
Design, setting, and population: Ecologic study conducted in designated market areas (DMAs) in the United States. Monthly testosterone advertising ratings were linked to DMA-level testosterone use data from 2009-2013 derived from commercial insurance claims. Associations between DTCA and testosterone testing, initiation, and initiation without recent baseline tests were estimated using Poisson generalized estimating equations.
Exposures: Monthly Nielsen ratings for testosterone DTCA in the 75 largest DMAs.
Main outcomes and measures: (1) Rates of new serum testosterone testing; (2) rates of testosterone initiation (in-office injection, surgical implant, or pharmacy dispensing) for all testosterone products combined and for specific brands; and (3) rates of testosterone initiation without recent serum testosterone testing.
Results: Of 17 228 599 commercially insured men in the 75 DMAs, 1 007 990 (mean age, 49.6 [SD, 11.5] years) had new serum testosterone tests and 283 317 (mean age, 51.8 [SD, 11.3] years) initiated testosterone treatment. Advertising intensity varied by geographic region and time, with the highest intensity seen in the southeastern United States and with months ranging from no ad exposures to a mean of 13.6 exposures per household. Nonbranded advertisements were common prior to 2012, with branded advertisements becoming more common during and after 2012. Each household advertisement exposure was associated with a monthly increase in rates of new testosterone testing (rate ratio [RR], 1.006; 95% CI, 1.004-1.008), initiation (RR, 1.007; 95% CI, 1.004-1.010), and initiation without a recent test (RR, 1.008; 95% CI, 1.002-1.013). Mean absolute rate increases were 0.14 tests (95% CI, 0.09-0.19), 0.05 new initiations (95% CI, 0.03-0.08), and 0.02 initiations without a recent test (95% CI, 0.01-0.03) per 10 000 men for each monthly ad exposure over the entire period.
Conclusions and relevance: Among US men residing in the 75 designated market areas, regional exposure to televised direct-to-consumer advertising was associated with greater testosterone testing, new initiation, and initiation without recent testing.